Captain Brassbound's Conversion HTML version

injustice, will not accept the situation, and are driven mad by their vain struggle
against it. Dickens has drawn the type in his Man from Shropshire in Bleak
House. Most public men and all lawyers have been appealed to by victims of this
sense of injustice--the most unhelpable of afflictions in a society like ours.
The fact that English is spelt conventionally and not phonetically makes the art of
recording speech almost impossible. What is more, it places the modern
dramatist, who writes for America as well as England, in a most trying position.
Take for example my American captain and my English lady. I have spelt the
word conduce, as uttered by the American captain, as cawndooce, to suggest
(very roughly) the American pronunciation to English readers. Then why not spell
the same word, when uttered by Lady Cicely, as kerndewce, to suggest the
English pronunciation to American readers? To this I have absolutely no defence:
I can only plead that an author who lives in England necessarily loses his
consciousness of the peculiarities of English speech, and sharpens his
consciousness of the points in which American speech differs from it; so that it is
more convenient to leave English peculiarities to be recorded by American
authors. I must, however, most vehemently disclaim any intention of suggesting
that English pronunciation is authoritative and correct. My own tongue is neither
American English nor English English, but Irish English; so I am as nearly
impartial in the matter as it is in human nature to be. Besides, there is no
standard English pronunciation any more than there is an American one: in
England every county has its catchwords, just as no doubt every state in the
Union has. I cannot believe that the pioneer American, for example, can spare
time to learn that last refinement of modern speech, the exquisite diphthong, a
farfetched combination of the French eu and the English e, with which a New
Yorker pronounces such words as world, bird &c. I have spent months without
success in trying to achieve glibness with it.
To Felix Drinkwater also I owe some apology for implying that all his vowel
pronunciations are unfashionable. They are very far from being so. As far as my
social experience goes (and I have kept very mixed company) there is no class in
English society in which a good deal of Drinkwater pronunciation does not pass
unchallenged save by the expert phonetician. This is no mere rash and ignorant
jibe of my own at the expense of my English neighbors. Academic authority in the
matter of English speech is represented at present by Mr. Henry Sweet, of the
University of Oxford, whose Elementarbuch des gesprochenen Engliach,
translated into his native language for the use of British islanders as a Primer of
Spoken English, is the most accessible standard work on the subject. In such
words as plum, come, humbug, up, gum, etc., Mr. Sweet's evidence is
conclusive. Ladies and gentlemen in Southern England pronounce them as plam,
kam, hambag, ap, gan, etc., exactly as Felix Drinkwater does. I could not claim